Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: The Reluctant Traveller by Bill Lumley

The Reluctant Traveller - Bill Lumley

Bill Lumley is a freelance writer who loves nothing more than going down to his local pub and getting intoxicated on numerous pints of beer. His whole life revolves around his fears, and his possession of a laminated note his mother wrote for him after a serious accident, that excused him from all physical activities at school, and which he still holds near and dear to his heart. In direct contrast, one of Bill’s old friends, Gar Powell-Evans, is a professional rock climber and photographer who lives for adventure and the great outdoors.
One day at the pub, while Bill is celebrating the completion of a large article, Gar suggests that Bill join him on his search for the legendary lost Ethiopian mountain, Wehni. The plan is to meet up with a group of mountaineers, known as the Hot Rock expedition, as they complete the Ethiopian leg of a three-year tour around the world. Aiming to get a place in the Guinness Book Of Records for driving a convertible truck the entire length of six continents, and climbing remote and unclimbed peaks around the world, Bill can’t see how their expedition will be of any worth to him. But he drunkenly agrees to come along, much to his dismay later on when he realises that he has agreed to write a travel book outlining their journey to find Mount Wehni. What follows is Bill and Gar’s voyage from London to Ethiopia, to find the truck and the lost mountain. They encounter many people (some helpful, some not) in their travels, and experience many things that are uncommon in most developed nations, including faeces-covered latrines, wild animals, and countless beggars.
Completely out of his comfort zone, and struggling to find a way to escape working (or finding and climbing the mountain for that matter), Bill’s narrative details the collective effort involved in locating the lost mountain of Wehni and becoming one of the first people in 200 years to climb it.

What I gained from reading this book:
Although this book is mostly about Bill and Gar’s journey to find Mount Wehni, it also touches on the extreme poverty that many Ethiopians live in. It appears that Western aid does not extend to many of the villages that the rock climbing crew drove through on their trip. Many of the Ethiopians they met lived in primitive housing, with minimal (or no) electricity and very little fresh drinking water. Many also appeared to rely on begging from white strangers to assist in their survival, while some utilised their knowledge of different areas by acting as tour guides or guards (for a fee of course). These accounts show that despite the millions of dollars donated every year to combat third-world poverty, the people are still not getting enough aid to survive, especially in the remotest parts of the country. Poverty is still around and it will take a long time before it ends for good.

This book actually provides quite a bit of information about Mount Wehni, its colourful history, and the numerous people who have attempted to find and climb it. Unfortunately, however, this information is scattered throughout the text and does not appear to be in any particular chronological order. Lumley’s account of the people of Ethiopia- and their mannerisms towards white strangers- is also fascinating, and provides a captivating insight into visiting a third-world country.

I found it difficult to read this book and not detest the man that wrote it, and that possibly prevented me from finding any real worth in reading this novel.
Besides the numerous spelling and grammatical errors that litter this travel narrative, readers also have to put up with whiney Bill, a self-confessed slacker, complaining constantly about everything he comes across. If you’re looking for a book that perfectly illustrates the definition of a ‘Whinging Pom’, then you’ve found it.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Genre: Non-Fiction Travel Narrative

Recommended for: People who are looking for personal account stories about Ethiopia’s legendary ‘lost mountain’.

Australians can buy the book by clicking the picture below:

The Reluctant Traveller

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